Every Fall I Wonder Again Why Our Leaders Didn't Fight for a Stadium in Boston

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fresh from their smash season-opening victory Monday night over the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots are getting ready for their home opener Sunday afternoon, September 18, against the Chargers of San Diego.

I'm even more excited than usual about a Patriots game because I'll be attending a pro game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on Sunday for the first time since the place opened in 2002. Also, it's a freebie: I'll be there as someone's guest in one of those obnoxiously plush corporate boxes. You bet I'll take all the luxury, pampering, drinks and viddles they treat me to. Why go to the coliseum if you don't want to act like a Roman?

Yeah, the Razor (as the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy likes to call Gillette Stadium) has it all: 68,000-plus seats, 46 permanent concession stands, 60 portable food and beverage stands, two gigantic (48 X 27 feet) scoreboards, a main concourse, an upper concourse, a special Putnam (as in investments) Club with seating for 6,600 fans, and four separate first aid stations for idiots like me who get too excited after every big play and end up spraining their wrists with the obligatory high-fiving. It even has a 12-story-high "lighthouse" near the main entrance that beckons the devoted more effectively than a church spire.

Gillette Stadium only has one problem: It is in Foxborough. On Route 1.

Boston to Foxborough is only 21 miles. When there's no traffic, it's a fairly quick ride. On game days, however, as many season ticket holders attest, it can easily take you one hour to drive there, find a parking space in one of the many $50-per-space parking lots that spring to temporary life, and hike a third of a mile or more to your seat in Spectacleland.

After the game, the travel away from this burb really gets rough.

From having attended a U-2 concert at Gillette, I know it can take an hour just to extricate your vehicle from one of those chaotic, fan-fleecing lots and crawl onto Route 1. Then it can take another 20 minutes to get to Route 95, at which time you have maybe a half-hour ride to Boston. If you're lucky.

On your way to the game, you're filled with anticipation, so the drive doesn't seem so bad. Afterwards, the inevitable letdown sets in, even if the Pats have won. You're tired, maybe a little beat up by all the booze and high-fat "snacks" you had to have, and the Monday morning blues are starting to wrap their heavy hands around your weary body and brain. The drive home then can feel like a penalty devised by your worst enemy.

In the late-1990s, there were two different plans to build a professional sports stadium as a home for the Patriots in Boston. One proposal would have sited it in South Boston and the other along Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury, the "crosstown" site. Residents in both locations voiced strong initial objections and the city's political leaders basically folded without a fight.

I don't know if Gillette Stadium should be in South Boston or Roxbury, but it should be somewhere in Boston, somewhere where it can be approached via multiple routes and is served by several modes of transportation.

Boston is the Hub of New England, a city with world-class institutions, a tourist mecca. It is the capital of a major state with more than six million inhabitants. And Boston proper hosts teams in the major professional sports of baseball (Red Sox), basketball (Celtics) and hockey (Bruins).

That such a city does not also host a team as illustrious and popular as the New England Patriots is the mistake that will never go away. (Those aerial shots of Boston taken from blimps during commercial breaks do not cut it.)

A football game, even when it decides a championship, has no ultimate importance, which is another reason why a fan should not have to give up an entire day of his life to attend one, as many a Patriot fan now must do.

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